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ECC appeals for budget approval

Erie County Community College staff, faculty and administrators Monday appealed to county legislators to approve a $111 million budget for the 2012-13 school year.

About two dozen members of the faculty, many wearing red polo shirts, attended a public hearing on the spending plan in the Legislature Chambers. Those who spoke expressed concern that vital positions at the college have already been lost in previous budgets.

"We estimate [the] blue-collar [union] has lost 33 positions in the past five years, due to attrition, ter minations and unfilled vacancies," said Richard Rojeck of Local 1095, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents maintenance, housekeeping and security staff at the college.

"While the student population is growing, our departments are stretched to the breaking point," Rojek added.

ECC President Jack Quinn, who also attended Monday's hearing, said 44 vacant positions at the college will go unfilled to reduce expenses. However, Diane Zych, a professor of mathematics, was among a half dozen faculty who spoke about the effect it would have on the college's education programs.

"The [student] retention rate has dropped in the last three years. It is no surprise when we see that full-time faculty has not been replaced," Zych said.

"And we need to show the community that we are committed to building a new classroom building at the North Campus, she added.

Quinn echoed those sentiments when he addressed the legislators. ECC North, he said, has not seen new construction in decades.

"It's falling apart, and we can't keep up with our competitors," Quinn said.

"Overall, the broad strokes of the [tentative] budget are as follows: We have contingency account to the tune of about $3.5 million. Secondly, we have raised tuition $300 a year and there were 44 budgeted positions but were not filled -- and that's painful. That takes out the wiggle room that anybody who puts budgets together understands is in there," added Quinn.

He also lamented that ECC students are shouldering a larger percentage of the burden for the cost of their education.

"When this formula was devised, students were only supposed to pay a third. At ECC now, it's up to 52 percent. We know that hurts your constituents," Quinn said.

email: hmcneil@buffnews.com